Elizabeth Warren said Friday that she would, if elected in 2020, pressure Congress to pass new legislation effectively reversing current Justice Department guidelines and allow for the indictment of a sitting president on criminal charges.
The Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential candidate has repeatedly asserted that President Donald Trump’s behavior – as described in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report – amounted to criminal obstruction of justice and that if Trump were “anyone other than the President of the United States, he would be in handcuffs and indicted.”
Earlier this week, Mueller said his office could not clear Trump, but that charging the President was also off the table. “The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing,” Mueller told reporters during a brief public statement.
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Warren, who supports moving forward with impeachment proceedings in Congress, said in her new memo that she would pursue new legislation to strip the current protections and, on the administration side, pledged to “appoint Justice Department officials who will reverse flawed policies so no President is shielded from criminal accountability.” There is, for now, no indication that current Democratic congressional leadership, headed up by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are close to changing direction and considering impeachment. Pelosi has said she believes the process would be too “divisive” and worries about the political backlash.
“You don’t bring an impeachment unless you have all the facts,” Pelosi said in California after Mueller spoke, referring to the ongoing House committee investigations into the President.
But Warren’s new pitch suggests lawmakers have more to do. She said in the memo it is their responsibility to disabuse Trump of the notion that he is “a king.”
If Congress were to move forward and “clarify” that criminal law applies to the President, Warren said, “one of the strongest arguments against indictment disappears: that the Constitution gives Congress the sole authority to decide when to interfere with the President’s duties, and that a criminal indictment would forcibly take that power away from Congress. It’ll also remove any statutory ambiguity that remains.”
Warren, who called for Trump’s impeachment last month after reading Mueller’s full report – “all 448 pages of it” – has been among his fiercest critics in the 2020 primary field. At a CNN town hall last month, Warren argued that “if any other human being in this country had done what’s documented in the Mueller report, they would be arrested and put in jail.”
She also gave what turned out to be a preview of what Mueller himself told Americans during his brief talk this week – that all the information required by Congress is already available inside his office’s exhaustive report.
“If you’ve actually read the Mueller report, it’s all laid out there,” Warren said in April. “It’s not like it’s going to take a long time to figure that out. It’s there.”
On Friday, she directly addressed Mueller’s statement, saying it “made clear what those of us who have read his report already knew: He’s referring Donald Trump for impeachment, and it’s up to Congress to act.”
CNN’s Jeremy Herb, Katelyn Polantz and Laura Jarrett contributed to this report.